Icewind Dale II – Temple Hell

I can’t critique the full game since I have not finished it, and unfortunately I’m not sure how likely that will be. Anyways, talk about a game that goes from awesome RPG goodness to a pure bore of the slog +2…

Let’s start with the good parts. The intro, like the first Icewind Dale is great and gets me into the adventure headspace immediately. Creating the characters for your party is fun – especially now considering the engine was updated to D&D 3.0 edition rule-set (which is my favorite version) from 2.0. The prologue and the first chapter has a magnificent feel to it, a freezing old town under siege by goblins and orcs. Mercenaries and guards all over the place, and with an exciting narrative that steers towards conspiracy and treason.

With the siege lifted, and the imminent danger averted, you get hired as a proper adventuring party. You now set out to kill the orcs and goblins once and for all. Well, considering it’s greenskins they always find a way to come back in greater numbers. But anyway, this part is pure bliss out of a D&D viewpoint, at least for me. Low level adventure enjoyment – low on cash/resources and most of your group still have to depend on non-magical items and weapons. Not only that, the quest and the overall narrative feels significant and grounded. It just has this classic adventure mark stamped all over.

Then comes chapter 2, and here I am. Not exactly stuck, but willingness to continue has waned to nothingness. After the defeated greenskin menace, you get called to do another task – non-surprising, it wasn’t the boys in green behind the attack. It was some kind of foul demon. All well and good so far, I mean that is why we are here right? To fight whatever threat we get hired for to get rid of. And we are much stronger now as a group.

Red trolls are the worst

We have to board a zeppelin that will take us across a mountain pass, and to the surprise of nobody it goes down. We crash-land in some kind of weird hilly ice area, and it’s here when the game gets way too “gamey” for my taste. You see, we somehow managed to crash right smack down into a zone, mind you, a rather small zone, filled to the brim with werewolves, evil cultists, giants and what not. I know this is fantasy, so creatures a-plenty is expected, but nothing of this makes sense. How do they all live out here, and what are the odds we would land right here where our plot needs to go?

After this area been dealt with, you are taken to another frozen location (snow blindness starts to set for real at this point) and it’s some kind of cultist labyrinth that makes even less sense. Monsters perhaps I can understand making a living for themselves somehow, since they are after all monsters. But these cultists are mostly humans – how do they eat, and above all, how do they not freeze to death? The game is also turning into a slog at this point, at one junction I had to fight three bosses in a row. One of the bosses are the demon we got introduced to at the end of the first chapter – the big bad female one. And we already get to dispose of her? Alright then. I’m still slogging through this, because I’m thinking the next part must be better. I found the items needed to repair the airship, or so I’m thinking at least, but now comes the part that broke me.

The Ice Temple.

The 3D art is charming

Behind the demon lady you had to kill is an opening to a temple of ice, and this house of worship is filled to the brim with mobs – which takes the slogging action to a whole new level. Besides that, the environment consists of frozen blue ice all over – endless corridors with blue cut ice and monsters. And this area just makes the issue of how they are even living here much worse. Here you get to see barracks, kitchens, all that kind of stuff, cut out into the ice. Are you to tell me they sleep in sub-zero temperatures on cots, and what do they cook for food, ice? I know this is a bit nit picky maybe, but stuff like this annoys me to no end, when there has been no real effort to make the location in question seem even a bit plausible. You can only suspend your disbelief so long.

And here I am. Not stuck, but I can’t muster the energy to get through it. I mean, I want to, because beyond the Ice temple I’m sure the game will be great again. However, it’s so boring now. I talked to a friend about it – apparently there is an annoying puzzle to be solved too, if my suffering wasn’t enough already. That doesn’t spell promise for me. Maybe one day I will get back to it, and I finally get to finish the series. I loved the original game and completed it, even if the last boss was a real pain in the neck for me.

Until next time, and thanks for reading.

/Thomas


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